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: Going Gluten-free is Just Another Fad Diet (Unless You Have Celiac Disease)

Going Gluten-free is Just Another Fad Diet (Unless You Have Celiac Disease)

Project Manager

For several years now, the number of gluten-free options that have been popping up in grocery stores has been increasing at a rapid rate. On the one hand, I find this to be really exciting, because both my cousin and one of my best friends suffer from celiac disease. But when I see any number of un-afflicted people buying gluten-free pasta and baked goods as part of their latest diet trend, I just get frustrated (to be fair, most fad-diets frustrate me-I have a dietician mother).

Celiac disease is a serious auto immune disorder that results in damage to the small intestinal lining when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as an additive in a number of processed foods. The only way to treat Celiac disease is through maintenance of a careful diet that is devoid of all traces of gluten. This used to be incredibly difficult but has become easier in recent years. As mentioned, the options for those eating gluten-free have skyrocketed recently, and so has the number of people who are trying to eat gluten-free to lose weight or because it's "healthier."

They Myth of Eating Gluten Free and Weight Loss

Unfortunately, like with most fad diets, just cutting something out of your diet is not likely to yield weight loss. However, many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon to do just that. This myth probably arises from the fact that eating naturally gluten-free foods, like fruits, vegetables and lean meats, is nutrient rich and lower in calories than gluten-full carbohydrates and processed foods. However, with the abundance of gluten-free foods now available in the supermarkets, most people don't choose the natural, whole foods and instead go with the more fun packaged gluten-free foods. Unfortunately, these foods, lacking gluten (which is what holds bread together and makes it chewy), are held together with oils, butter and eggs-making them high in fat! Because many whole grains are off the table when it comes to a gluten-free diet, the nutritional value of these gluten-free processed foods is greatly diminished. 

The basic rule of weight loss stands: burn more calories than you take in by watching what you eat and exercising regularly.

"Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity"

"Wait!" you may say. "I think I'm sensitive to gluten." If you think that gluten may be a problem for you, talk to your doctor to get tested for celiac disease. If you eliminate gluten from your diet before the test, you may get a false negative result. Eliminating only some gluten can still cause damage to your intestines if you have celiac disease. However, after people who tested negative for celiac disease claimed to feel better after cutting gluten from their diet, a condition called "non-celiac gluten sensitivity," sometimes called "gluten intolerance" was termed. The existence of such a condition was largely confirmed, although still up for debate, after a study published in 2011 by Peter Gibson that provided evidence for gluten intolerance. This provided credibility to the already popular gluten-free diet! His original study was double-blinded, randomized, and placebo controlled, but Dr. Gibson was not satisfied with the results, so he conducted an even more rigorous experiment, recently published, on participants who all met the diagnostic criteria for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There were three branches of the trial-a placebo, a low-gluten diet, and a high-gluten diet. In the end, Gibson concluded that, "In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten." Furthermore, they found that FODMAPS-difficult to digest carbohydrates, may be the true culprit. FODMAPs are found in many of the same foods as gluten, which can sometimes mean that following a gluten-free diet also cuts out FODMAPs, but this doesn't mean that the relief one may find from this diet is due to a lack of gluten itself.

If you're having intestinal discomfort and believe your diet may be to blame, talk with your doctor or dietician to see about getting tested. If you decide to go gluten-free, don't do it for weight-loss reasons, and make sure you know what gluten is before you jump on the bandwagon.

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